There has been a lot of speculation in the media that San Diego Chargers quarterback, Philip Rivers, isn’t playing up to his typical standards this year. With six interceptions and two fumbles in three games, the question on the minds of fantasy owners and fans alike is: What’s wrong with Philip Rivers?
For the first time in his career, he has thrown two interceptions in three consecutive games. His passer rating of 82.1 is well under his career average of 96.4 and the lowest he has ever recorded since becoming a starter in 2006.
His longest completion on the season is a mere 37 yards. The only starting quarterback who hasn’t thrown a pass farther is Indianapolis Colts backup-turned-starter, the 17-year pro, Mr. Greybeard himself, Kerry Collins. Rivers may still be in the top 10 for total yards, but every other quarterback on that list has thrown a pass at least twice as far as Rivers.
He may also be a bit banged up after getting an illegal hit to the chest in New England. Rivers received a couple more shots to the same region against Kansas City that had him wincing between plays. Still, it’s nothing more than another day at the office for a quarterback in the NFL. Officially, Rivers isn’t injured, he’s just sore.
So, what does all of this mean?
It means absolutely nothing.
Rivers may be having an unusually slow start by his standards but I don’t see anything systemically wrong with his game. The Chargers are still among the league leaders in passing yards (sixth), passing percentage (sixth), first downs (second), third downs converted (second) and third-down conversion percentage (first).
Some might argue that Rivers is underperforming because he is missing his favorite target, Antonio Gates. Since that didn’t affect his performance last season, I doubt that it is a contributing factor this year either. In fact, Rivers put up huge numbers last year despite numerous injuries up and down the receiving corps.
Really, there is only one factor to consider when looking at Rivers’ first few performances, and it has nothing to do with Rivers himself. It has to do with his pass protection, or lack thereof.
Much of the media has dismissed such notions citing the fact that Rivers hasn’t been sacked or knocked down more than usual.
The truth, however, belies the statistics.
He has had less time to deliver the ball this year than in years past. Three- and four-man rushes are beating the pass protection far too quickly and far too often.
Rivers isn’t getting hit any more than usual because he is just that good at reading the defense and getting rid of the ball even quicker than before.
That is why we are not seeing the deep passing plays that the Chargers, and Rivers, are known for. There is simply not enough time for those plays to develop this year as the offensive line has lost a step.
Rivers may not be getting hit more frequently, but when he does, he’s picking up direct, full-force blows that cause more damage, and he is certainly getting pressured to release the ball that much sooner than he has in the past.
It's just a matter of adjustments. Either the offensive line will have to hold their blocks a little longer or Rivers will have to adapt to getting rid of the ball a little quicker.
Whichever is the case, it won't be long before Rivers starts looking like his old self again and leads the Chargers to another successful season.